The Fundamental Aspect of the Triple Jump for Dummies


By: Fritz Spence and Gerald Masterson, Ph.D.

Triple Jump Example

Fritz Spence has been the assistant track and field jump coach at Missouri State University for the pass four years. In this article he will outline the five fundamental phases in performing the triple jump. He will share sound advice on the technical training aspect of the triple jump. This article is based on the author's knowledge and experience of the triple jump. In his time coaching on the NCAA Division One Level he has produce 12 Conference Champions, 12 NCAA Regional Qualifiers, 3 All-Mideast Regional Picks, 7 NCAA National Qualifiers, and 3 NCAA All-Americans.

As a collegian at Missouri State, Spence was three-times Conference Champion, and a former school and conference record holder in the triple jump. He was a twelfth place finisher in the triple jump at the 1995 NCAA Outdoor Championship. These accomplishments have provided Spence with a better knowledge and understanding while coaching today.

Modern triple jump started in Scotland in the mid 19th century. German Ludwig Jahn did a jump that is really close to today's technique in the mid 19th century. The triple jump is one of the most demanding and unique events in track and field today; it requires a combination of balance, strength, rhythm, and speed in order to be successful. The triple jump is composed of five distinct phases which must flow together in order to achieve a positive outcome. These phases are the approach run, hop, step, jump and landing phase. During the approach phase, the athlete runs down the runway. Next is the hop phase, this is where the athlete take off and landing on the same foot; the step phase occurs with the athlete landing on the opposite foot, and the jump phase, similar to jumping phase in the long jump, and the landing phase is the competition on the jump phase. The phases are all easy to master, given the proper coaching and execution of the phases. Of all the phases the step phase is the most difficult of the five to master.

An athlete must possess good motor skills, along with powerful muscles, and above- average ability in sprinting and jumping is required to be a successful triple jumper.

Technique:

When triple jumping, learning the proper technique is very important. Teaching and reinforcing the proper technique of each phase to a young triple jumper will always give him/her the edge during competition. Some small things to remember:

  1. Remember each phase depends on the other.
  2. The greatest progress in the triple jump will come from improving the step phase.
  3. Out of the five phases the "step" phase is the most difficult to master.
  4. Always keep your arms back upon contact with the ground; this will help maintain horizontal speed.
  5. Always keep head level and eyes focus straight ahead.

The Five Triple Jump Phases

The Approach Run and Hop Phase:

Triple Jump Example

Step Phase: (the middle part of the jump)

Triple Jump Example

Jump and Landing Phase:

Triple Jump Example

Approach Phase:

The approach should be long enough for the athlete to accelerate into the run with control speed to the board. If the approach is too slow, the jumper will loose his or her speed in the later phase of the approach run. If the approach is too fast, the jumper will be unable to control his/her hope phase in the triple jump; if this occurs the jumper will collapse because there is not enough time to set up for the hop phase if the speed is out of control. This will also affect the step and jump phase. First time triple jumpers should start out with a four step approach then a six, eight, ten, twelve, fourteen, sixteen, etc. As the jumper gets stronger and begins to master the phases and max out at each step, he or she can then move on to the next steps of the approach. The length of the run for full approach, which is sixteen (16) steps for collegiate female athletes, is between 83 and 100 feet. For male athletes, their approach ranges from 103 to 120feet. Over time as the jumper will become stronger and with more experience, he/she can then lengthen his /her approach. When coaching a beginner a check mark can be used, one mark will be placed at the beginning of the approach, and the other will be placed at the latter part of the approach. For example, if the jumper is running from a ten step approach the coach would put a check mark four steps from the board. The coach will also ask the jumper to push out for three, control the next three and accelerate the last four. In the overall approach run the coach can use three phases; the Drive Phase, Transition Phase, and the Acceleration Phase.

Drive Phase:

This phase is very important, because it set up the whole run. In a ten step approach a jumper should drive out for three. In a twelve step approach run the jumper should drive out for four. In a fourteen step approach a jumper should drive out for five. In a sixteen step approach a jumper should drive out for six. During each drive phase the jumper's stride must remain open and head down as if he/she was running out of the starting block in a sprint race.

Transition Phase:

The transition phase is used to control the drive phase of the approach; it also allows the jumper to position his/her body for the final four strides of the approach run.

Acceleration Phase:

The jumper final four stride; each stride should be faster than the previous. By the time the jumper reaches this phase he/she should have full control of the approach and ready to take flight.

Remember the check mark is not for the athlete but the coach. As the young jumper gains experience he/she should use only the beginning mark. Mastering the beginning of the approach is very important to the overall approach run. The jumper should practice his/her approach regularly, which will help the jumper to become more consistent.

Hop Phase:

Triple Jump Example

The hop is the first phase of the triple jump, during this phase the athlete run of the takeoff board with a hop. The objective in the hop is to achieve horizontal vertical velocity (going forward and up) of the take off board, not vertical horizontal velocity (up and forward as in the long jump). The jumper should use his/her strongest leg for the hop phase because the hop leg will be used for two of the three jumps. The horizontal vertical velocity (forward and up) of the take off board is accomplished by keeping the body upright but in a slightly forward position. The heel of the hop leg should rotate high and under the hip and then extended it as far forward as possible with the upper body slightly over the foot on touch down. This position will make the athlete feels as if he or she is running off the board. Remember, always remind the jumper to stay upright and never look down or lean forward, because the body will naturally lean forward when the hands are extended back on touch down. If the athlete leans his/her body too forward it will be difficult to bring the opposite leg up for the next phase.

Important points to remember about the Hop Phase:

The jumper take-off leg should be fully extended at take off, with the jumper's arms extended out in front of the body when using the double-arm technique or one arm in front and the other in back when using the single arm technique. (Fig A)

The jumper drive leg should be almost parallel to the ground and relaxed at take off. (Fig A)

Remember to complete a full circle; the take-off leg should be pulled to the buttocks. (Fig B)

The jumper drive leg must also rotate from in front of the body to the back in order to maintain horizontal speed. (Fig B-C)

An aggressive take-off leg begins to pull forward, with the arms extending backward (double arm technique) or one arm in front and the other in the back (single arm technique). (Fig C)

As the take-off leg reaches parallel, the lower portion of the leg extends out past the knee, with the foot dorsi flexed. (Fig C)

Once the leg is extended, the athlete then should aggressively drive the leg downwards, setting the athlete up for an active landing (Fig D). Remember, the jumper's arm(s) should always be back on touch down.

Arm Action:

The two most commonly used method of the arm action in triple jump:

  1. Double-arm action
  2. Single —arm action

A combination of a double —arm hop and a double-arm step, along with a double-arm jump phase are mostly used when triple jumping. Each individual jumper and coach should determine their style of jumping; finding their style will depend on the comfort of the jumper and how well he/she can execution the technique during practice. A younger inexperienced jumper will usually use a long slow double arm action that goes pass the hip during the approach phase on the last step just before he/she arrive to the board. The jumper should learn to begin the action of the arm during the step before the last step of the approach just before takeoff. The jumper should stop the arm that is going back at the hip, never pass the hip upon takeoff, then let both arms go forward as if he/she is trying to grab something in front of him/her; this will allow for an easier leg rotation under the hips. The jumper's arm should never go higher than the chin or lower than the chest. If the arm goes too high, the foot will come down too hard and too fast, and the jumper's body will be out of position upon contact with the ground. If the arm goes to low, the jumper's body will tilt forward and shorten the step phase.

Younger jumpers tend to stop the back and forward movement of the arms and put both arms behind the back about one and-half steps before the takeoff board. This will slow the jumper's horizontal speed down tremendously just before takeoff. This will be ok for a beginner jumper, but after some experience and reputations the jumper should be able to run off the board without slowing down. Remember, pulling both arms back will slow down the approach run just before the board, and the loss of speed at this point will also hinders the flow of the other phases.

The single-arm method is simply a running motion off the board, as if the jumper is taking one more step, only different is the running step is the hop phase.

A coach should select the method of arm action base on the speed of the jumper. As a rough guide, the faster jumper can best use the double-arm method, a jumper of average speed can use whichever method is most comfortable, and the slower athlete usually benefits from the single- arm action. The coach and jumper should experiment and use the method best suited to that jumper. If the jumper is an above average sprinter he/she could use the double arm technique. If he/she is below average sprinter he/she will be better using the single arm technique.

In the hop, the leg should be pulled through for extension; and as the foot is about to land, it should be flattened so that the jumper can "roll" over the foot into the next phase. Landing on the toes will interrupt the horizontal speed and the flow landing. If a jumper lands on the heel it can cause heel bruises. Also, a "heel landing" makes it more difficult to control the forward movement. The landing should be very slightly on the heel, followed by a "rolling" action of the foot.

Due to the nature of the triple jumping, athletes should wear light, durable shoes with heel cups inserted in them. The coach must be aware that the constant pounding and landing on the heels can cause serious injuries to the jumper. Make it necessary to have you jumpers use heel cups to avoid bruises and other foot injuries.

Step Phase: (the middle part of the jump)

Triple Jump Example

Just before the athlete completes the hop phase, the arms should be pulled back to prepare the athlete for his/her step phase. The step phase is accomplished by bringing the swing leg (opposite of the hop leg) up and forward. The jumper should strive to get the upper leg perpendicular to the body or parallel to the ground about 90 degree. Both arms must come forward to utilize the double- arm action. Whenever the single-arm action is being used during the step phase, the opposite arm goes forward like a continuation of the run but never passes the chin.

To execute the proper step phase the jumper should hold his/her leg at 90 degrees for a split second, then the lower leg must extend ahead of the knee just before landing. The requirement for holding this position is to keep the torso extended and slightly forward in order to hole the foot at 90 degree. As the jumper prepares for touch down and the foot is extended for touch down, the jumper must extend his/her hand behind the back to prepare for the jump phase. The jumpers arm must be slightly ahead of the free leg to execute the correct jump phase.

Important points to remember about the Step Phase

The take-off leg is slightly extended with the drive leg (knee) just below parallel to the ground. (Fig E)

The take-off leg stays extended behind the body with the heel held high.(Fig F)

The drive leg is held parallel with the ground about ninety degrees, and the toe dorsiflexed. (Fig F) At this time the jumper arms should be extended out along side the jumper's body, then continue to swing back just before touch down.

The drive leg extends with a flexed ankle (creating a long lever) and snaps downward for a quick transition into the jump phase. (Fig G) During that time the jumper arms should begin to swing up and out in front of the jumper's body.

Jump Phase:

Triple Jump Example

As the jumper prepares to initiate the jump phase, the arms are interchange if the single-arm method is used. If the double arm is use, both arm should be back on touch down and pulled through aggressively with a punching action. The athlete should execute the jump phase with a hang style similar to the action of a long jumper. There is not enough time to execute the hitch-kick.

In the air the jumper must delay forward rotation to assure a better landing. The reaching of the arm and the subsequent downward-backward action of the arm will aid in delaying the forward rotation.

Important points to remember about the Jump Phase:

During the jump phase the jumper's take-off leg, which is the drive leg in the previous phases, is extended upon contact with the ground. The arms should be coming through. (Fig H)

The jumper free-leg should be driven slightly above the waist level. (Fig H)

The arms are then driven forward and up - the jumper's torso should be held erect with the chin up and eyes looking beyond the pit - the legs move into a hang position with both legs directly below the torso, the jumper's legs should also be bent at the knees - the arms should be extended overhead to slowdown the forward rotation of the body, with the jumper's hands reaching for the sky. (Fig I)

The jumper's arms should then drive forward — with the legs swing forward. The jumper should hold that position until the heels hit the sand; when the heel hits the sand the knees should collapse, which will allow the upper body to rotate forward, this will also allow the jumper's hips rise forcing the jumper will slides through the sand. (Fig J)

Landing Phase:

Triple Jump Example

The landing should be similar to long jump; the jumper must reach high, drive arm down and back, back must be parallel to the ground with chin up, the athlete's arm must go past the hips prior to the feet touching, at contact bring arms back and forward.

The jumper leg should be bent to bring them through to prepare to land. They must, however, reach extension again on the way down to landing. Many jumpers leave them bent and rob themselves of precious inches to their jumps. It is one flowing motion to throw the arms forward and down, extending the legs bending forward resulting in the hand being close to ones knee. Every effort must be made to hold this position until the first contact with the sand.

At contact the jumper knee should bend to help absorb the shock associated with landing. In order to maintain forward momentum the arm should be in a position where they are extended, moving backward and the hands would be next to the buttocks at first contact. From this position at landing, one can continue the backward motion of the arms and propel the body forward. This will eliminate the problem of falling back and losing distance.

Two methods could be use to exit the landing after completing a jump; the techniques are the straight ahead and side out exit. In the side out exit the knees are not as deeply flexed when using this method. In the straight ahead method, the athlete must have great timing to successfully use the arms. If done properly it can be safer and the result in lost of distance due to falling back.

Important points to remember about the Landing phase:

The arms drive forward out to the jumpers toe, chin up and eyes focus about five to ten feet looking beyond the pit. The arms should extend forward to continue the horizontal forward rotation of the body (Fig J)

With strong forward arms drive and legs swing forward and high just before extending will allow the jumper more time to travel into the pit before the heels hit the sand. When the heel hits the sand the knees should collapse, allowing the upper body to rotate forward, which will allow the hips to rise and the jumper will slides through the sand.

Conclusion:

The advancement of the triple jump technique is a process that takes time to develop and refine. Learning the fundamental principle of the triple jump can help the coach and the athlete break down the phases to achieve a successful jump. The athlete must find the rhythm that best suits him/her.

When teaching the triple jump each individual may be different depending on the individual strength, speed, and size. The triple jump is an event that demands a lot from the athlete; it requires a combination of balance, strength, rhythm and speed which makes it a very difficult event to learn. If athletes and coaches would take the time to learn the fundamentals of the triple jump, that athlete could have an injury free and a successful career in the triple jump.

These are techniques a young jumper could used to master to triple jump. The more experienced and mature they become, the better they will jump.

Drills:

The following drills can be of use, also, aid in the overall training program for a young triple jumper.

Standing Triple Jump:

Depending on the experience of the jumper a coach should mark a 15-20 feet board on the runway. The jumper will position his/her body facing the sand pit with both feet on the ground. The jump should concentrate on a big knee drive for the hop and step phase. A double arm swing must be achieved in order to create horizontal velocity. During this drill the jumper should focus on staying tall during the jump. The distance will improve as the jumper height, strength and aggressiveness increase.

Hop, Hop Step Bounding Drill:

During the hop, hop, step drill the jumper will hop twice on the same leg, and then step on the opposite leg for 30-40 meters. This drill will teach the jumper to focus on all aspect of the triple jump phases. The beginner jumper should start out with each phase 4-6 feet apart, these phases should be done with control while working on strength endurance rather than speed. The coach should increase the distance between each phase as the jumper increases his/her strength and starts to executing better technique.

Stepping Drills:

During this drill the jumper must focus on the step phase of the triple jump. The jumper could use the double or single arm method. The phases should be between 4-6 feet apart. The coach should always look and remind the jumper to have his/her arms back on touch down. If the arm is back on touch down the chest will be ahead of the hip, and the jumper will maintain his/her horizontal speed through the drill.

Hurdle Hopping:

During the hurdle hop the jumper will focus on his/her upper body being slightly forward and the knee driving to the chest; with the arm back on touch down. The younger jumper should start out at a reasonable height; a coach should increase the distance as the jumper increases his/her height with strength.

Weight Training:

Weight training is very important to the triple jumper. Proper lifting technique should be first taught. Learning the proper technique will help the jumper to be able to lift heavier with little chance of injuries. At the beginning of the weight an athlete should take a max test; during the max test the jumper will test his/her strength over four lifts. These lifts are the bench press, squats, incline press, power cleans, and dead lifts. The jumper has four lifts, one lift each time weight is added to complete the max circle. After the max is completed the jumper will have his/her max lifts. At the next weight lifting session the jumper can start to work on getting stronger in the weight room. The jumper should also start out with light weight and increase gradually with his/her strength. The jumper should also lift about three times a week. The jumper should also stretch before lifting and make shore his/her body is warm before weight lifting. A jumper should also wear a weight belt at all times especially during heavy lifting, and always lift in groups. The coach should also recommend that a younger jumper should start out with free weights. Free weights will help with balance and put less stress on the jumper joints.

Resources

Here is a six weeks weight program to get you started (PDF Format - 116KB)

References

Doherty, K. J. (1985). Track and Field OmniBook Forth Edition. Los Altos, CA. Tafnews Press.

Track and Field News. (n.d.) Retrieved April 10, 2006.

Sport Coach. (1997) Retrieved April 18, 2006 from http://www.brianmac.demon.co.uk/triplejump/index.htm

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